Why we strike

Sorting through the 320 photos I took at the Oakland general strike today will take some time, as will getting all my thoughts together for a blog post. Meanwhile, here’s a mini-essay I posted on twitter.

Each point was scheduled to go up at half-hour intervals, starting at 8 am, running through 8:30 pm. I also tweeted from my phone throughout the day to give a sense of the atmosphere at Oscar Grant Plaza.

I opened with a passage from the great union hymn “Solidarity Forever,” a verse I also borrowed from to make my protest sign:

Why we strike: They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn,

But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.

We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn

That the union makes us strong. Solidarity forever.

From there, I continued:

Why we strike: Iraq vet Scott Olsen’s skull was fractured by a rubber bullet while he peacefully protested in Oakland’s streets.

Why we strike: about 1/4 of Iraq vets come home with brain injuries, from a war we never wanted, that’s ending far too late.

Why we strike: As Iraq vets come home, too many are homeless. Maybe >10,000 are on the streets, many suffering PTSD or brain injury.

Why we strike: There are more than 7,000 homeless people in Oakland.

Why we strike: Half of Californians whose houses are foreclosed are Latino. Minorities are more likely to be foreclosed than whites.

Why we strike: The median member of congress has 5 times the net worth of the median American household, who they supposedly represent.

Why we strike: Over 3000 #occupyarrests, but so far none of the bankers who created the Lesser Depression have been held accountable.

Why we strike: 1/4 Oakland households with children lived below the poverty line at least some time in 2010, compared to 18% statewide.

Why we strike: We only seem to talk about the middle class and rich. Poor are out of sight in jails, working class can’t find work.

Why we strike: 16.5% of Americans are unemployed, are working part time and want full time, or want work but have given up looking.

Why we strike: 30 years ago, 10% of California budget went to higher ed, 3% to prisons. Today, 11% goes to prisons and 8% to higher ed.

Why we strike: Manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is lower than when the first personal computer was built in 1975.

Why we strike: Student debt in the US is over $1 trillion. Unemployment among college grads has doubled in the Lesser Depression.

Why we strike: 93% of public school students in grades 5-8 are taught physical science by teachers without a degree in physical science.

Why we strike: Climate change and pollution hit the poorest people hardest, but are caused by the consumption habits of the wealthiest.

Why we strike: 1% of US controls a majority of all stocks, thus almost every corporation. Thus, control most environmental destruction.

Why we strike: For 55 years, corporate shills in Congress stripped away workers’ right to press back against the power of the bosses.

Why we strike: A child born today will be dealing with climate change as long as he or she lives, no matter what we do now.

The comments on a right to strike refer to Taft-Hartley, passed in 1947 (shortly after the last general strike in the US, also in Oakland), which blocks general strikes, political strikes. I posted it at 7, when the night shift was scheduled to come on at the Port of Oakland. The port workers agreed to a contractual clause forbidding them from striking, so the general strike decided to picket the port, shutting it down for the night, so the workers could express their solidarity.

We did shut down the port ? the 5th largest in the country ? a success I commemorated with this tweet:

The only thing more beautiful than the Oakland port at dusk is 5000 people marching to the port at dusk.

It really was stunningly beautiful, and I plan to go back some time soon. I’ll have pictures to show soon.


  1. #1 Ian Kemmish
    November 4, 2011

    “We only seem to talk about the middle class and rich.”

    What a strange thing for a self-proclaimed poor American to say! When was the last time you ever talked about the rich? (Well, apart from the trivial observation that to most of the world’s population, “poor American” is obviously an oxymoron…..)

    More importantly, none of your grievances address the question of “why”. There is no conceivable mechanism by which any of them will be fixed by a withdrawal of labour. A doubling of your effort might improve some of them, but a reduction of effort to zero?

  2. #2 Wow
    November 4, 2011

    > There is no conceivable mechanism by which any of them will be fixed by a withdrawal of labour.

    What happened to that Free Market mantra of “Vote with your feet”?

    Or are you saying it was just a platitude to make any action the fault of those complaining, thereby absolving the ones active in making the problem of any and all blame?

    How else are a working class supposed to proclaim their grievance if not by going on strike? Armed revolution?

  3. #3 Minda Martin
    November 5, 2011

    This is a great post.

    I would add one more–

    Why We Strike–To make people aware of corporate personhood and the urgent need to reverse the Citizens United case.

  4. #4 Anthony McCarthy
    November 7, 2011

    We need to get rid of Buckley Vs. Valeo and a whole string of rulings that constitute an obvious effort by Republican conservatives on the court to insure the corruption of our election system.

    The Supreme Court is the major force favoring the corruption of our political system in favor of establishing oligarchic rule.

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